Thursday, March 16, 2017

What Does That Symbolize?

One of the questions we often get as heralds is what a particular shape or charge means.

Generally, the real answer is, "We don't know."

Other times, however, we do know, and it can be more than one thing.

A recent (February 16, 2017) article posted on Atlas Obscura discusses the fact that, "In Heraldry, Hearts Can Symbolize Everything From Lily Pads to Testicles."

No, really! Eric Grundhauser, the author, uses for his primary examples the "hearts" on the arms of Denmark, and the "inverted hearts" on the arms of the Italian Colleoni family.

Denmark's hearts, above, strewn across the field behind the three lions, are thought to actually represent lily pads, "søblade" ("seeblatter" in German), or "sea leaves."

For the Italian family of Colleoni, however, the "inverted hearts" on their shield represent testicles, "coglioni" in Italian, thus making these canting arms (a coat of arms which is a pun on the surname).

My take on this? Though "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar," sometimes a heart is not just a heart.

You can find the full article, in which the author includes quotes from his correspondence with David Robert Wooten, the executive director of the American College of Heraldry, with more illustrations, on-line at

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